Don't expect the instant gratification of the NFL draft or a parade of recognizable college stars. The Major League Baseball draft is all about unfamiliar names, interminable seasoning in the bush leagues and arm injuries that keep many of the names unfamiliar forever.
Still, something about potential and promise and prospects is alluring to even casual fans. So log on Monday at 7 p.m. ET – the Big League Stew live chat on Yahoo! Sports is sure to be an informative and entertaining gabfest – and enjoy the proceedings.
Meanwhile, here is a handy guide to names, trends and tendencies, something to help give a little meaning to all that will be unfamiliar.
• Bloodlines: When in doubt, baseball teams draft a player with a familiar last name. A year ago the Angels even took the adopted son of Muhammad Ali, catcher Asaad Ali, in the 40th round. The Red Sox drafted Carl Yastrzemski's grandson, high school outfielder Mike, in the 36th round. Displaying impressive restraint, both players opted for college rather than signing.
The sons of former MLB players Ruben Sierra(notes), Tim Wallach, Al Bumbry, Todd Worrell, Tony Fernandez, Chad Kreuter and Harold Baines also were picked in 2009. Of course, sometimes progeny can be prodigy – witness Barry Bonds(notes), the sixth overall pick in 1985; and Ken Griffey Jr.(notes), the first overall pick in 1987.
This year, two prospects with familiar fathers are regarded somewhat below the Bonds/Griffey Jr. level but well above most other bloodline picks. Both are high school players from Georgia with commitments to LSU: Delino DeShields Jr., an outfielder with an electric bat and foot speed; and Cam Bedrosian, a right-handed power pitcher just like his father, 1987 Cy Young Award winner Steve.
DeShields Jr. and Bedrosian could go as high as the late first round but are more likely second-round picks. Their draft spots could be determined by how scouts regard their LSU commitments.
• Boras: As usual, superagent Scott Boras will have a major impact on the proceedings. He is representing Bryce Harper, the no-brainer first overall pick of the Washington Nationals, and another half-dozen players who could go in the first and supplemental rounds.
Being represented by Boras means a player probably will squeeze every dime possible out of the team that drafts him. It means the player likely won't sign until minutes before the Aug. 16 deadline. And it also means the player might not sign at all if the team doesn't meet his demands.
Manny Machado, a high-school shortstop from Miami who might be the second or third player drafted, is represented by Boras. So are highly regarded college pitchers Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Harvey, and two potential first-round picks from Cal State Fullerton – middle infielder Christian Colon and outfielder Gary Brown.
Serving as cautionary tales for teams are two other Boras clients who were first-round picks a year ago but did not sign and are back in the draft: left-handed pitcher James Paxton and center fielder LeVon Washington.
Washington, whose calling card is speed and consistent gap power, was drafted 30th overall by the Tampa Bay Rays but rejected a reported $1.1 million offer. He didn't qualify academically to attend Florida, played this season at a junior college and did not improve his draft stock.
Paxton went 37th overall to the Toronto Blue Jays but did not return for his senior year at the University of Kentucky because the NCAA launched an investigation into whether Boras was his "adviser," as stipulated by NCAA rules, or actually represented him in contract negotiations. Paxton instead pitched for an independent minor league team and is projected to be drafted about the same place he was last year.
• The Next Leake: The No. 8 overall pick last year, Cincinnati Reds starter Mike Leake(notes), became only the 21st player and first since 2000 to go directly from the draft to the big leagues, and he's 5-0 in 11 starts this season. Leake was a mature college pitcher with excellent command of his fastball and changeup, the ideal prototype to skip the minors. Is there a Leake in this year's draft crop?
The short answer is no. This draft is loaded with talented, high-school, right-handed pitchers, none of whom will sniff the big leagues in spring 2011. Among college right-handers, Deck McGuire of Georgia Tech probably will be the first drafted, and he conceivably could go straight to a big league rotation because of his competitive makeup and durability. More likely he'll pitch in Double-A for half a season, honing his changeup.
The other possible first-round college right-handers are either late bloomers, have command issues or a history of injuries: Brandon Workman (Texas), Alex Wimmers (Ohio State), Anthony Ranaudo (LSU), Matt Harvey (North Carolina), Brett Eibner (Arkansas), Chad Bettis (Texas Tech), Jesse Hahn (Virginia Tech) and Asher Wojciechowski (The Citadel).
None of the three left-handers targeted for the first round appear ready to go straight to the big leagues, either. Drew Pomeranz of Ole Miss could be drafted in the top five, but his devastating curveball comes and goes. Chris Sale of the Florida Gulf Coast has tremendous fastball command and three-plus pitches, but concerns about his durability mean the team that signs him will proceed with caution. Sammy Solis of San Diego has had back problems that indicate he will be brought along methodically.
• Prep arms: The player most likely to eclipse Harper as the plum of the draft is 6-foot-6 right-handed pitcher Jameson Taillon of The Woodlands (Texas) High. The most frequent comparison is to Josh Beckett(notes), another Texas power pitcher. Taillon has touched 99 mph with his fastball and has two quality breaking pitches. Interestingly, a high-school right-hander has never been the No. 1 pick in the draft, and Harper's presence means that streak will continue even though Taillon would be worthy.
Taillon is one of a dozen prep righties projected to be picked by the early second round. The best name is Stetson Allie of Lakewood, Ohio. The best makeup might be that of Peter Tago, a seemingly easygoing beach kid from Dana Point, Calif., whose deep competitive streak emerges late in games when he summons a 95-mph fastball. The best two-way player is Kaleb Cowart of Adel, Georgia, who throws a sinking fastball in the low 90s and hits home runs from both sides of the plate as a third baseman. The best secondary pitch is that of Karsten Whitson of Chipley, Fla., whose sharp slider is big league ready. The best buzz heading into the draft is about A.J. Cole, another Florida kid, whose fastball has jumped from 90 to 95 mph in the last two months. The closest to the majors is Dylan Covey of Pasadena, Calif., who has four better-than-average pitches.
• Bats: Although research has established that college hitters drafted in the first round have a greater probability of making an impact at the major league level than high school hitters or pitchers of any background, a lean year is a lean year. And this is a lean year for college hitters.
Yasmani Grandel of Miami is a polished catcher and switch-hitter, but he'll probably bat .270 with a dozen homers a year in the major leagues. The only corner infielder to excite scouts is Zack Cox, a 5-foot-11 third baseman from Arkansas with a knack for opposite-field gap power. Maybe the best college hitter is Kolbrin Vitek of Ball State, but he hasn't mastered a position and conceivably could be converted to a pitcher.
Colon projects as an ideal No. 2 hitter, but he sits behind Machado as a shortstop prospect and is likely to be moved to second base. Among corner outfielders, Michael Choice of Texas-Arlington has enviable power and a sustained record of solid production, although he strikes out a ton. Kyle Parker of Clemson is a gamer who also plays quarterback for the football team, and Bryce Brentz of Middle Tennessee State led Division I in home runs but is another potential convert to the mound. Gary Brown, a fleet center fielder from Fullerton, figured out how to hit this season despite rarely taking a walk.
That leaves high-school position players, and only a few are first-round caliber. Machado is a Floridian of Dominican descent, so he has drawn the obligatory comparisons to Alex Rodriguez(notes). You never know. Outfielder Josh Sale is the best pure power hitter in the draft and a baseball rat who could go in the first handful of picks. Outfielder Austin Wilson of Harvard-Westlake High in Southern California has a Stanford commitment that he'll probably honor. Catcher Justin O'Conner of Muncie, Ind., has such a good arm he could be converted to the mound if he doesn't hit in Single-A. Nick Castellanos is a shortstop who will probably move to third base and has average major league skills across the board.
Who is left to mention? Maybe the most intriguing player of all – Drew Vettleson of Silverdale, Wash. Vettleson can hit for average and power. Vettleson can field and throw. But the real treat is watching him pitch because he does so with his right and left hands. Alas, even though he touches 90 mph, he likely won't showcase that rare ability in the pro ranks because he's a better hitter than pitcher.
• Team that could clean up: Even though the Los Angeles Angels' own first-round pick is third-to-last because they advanced to the ALCS last season, they picked up four compensation picks for losing free agents John Lackey(notes) and Chone Figgins(notes). Therefore, they pick at No. 18, No. 29, No. 30, No. 37 and No. 40.
All those suddenly familiar names above? Pencil in five of them for the Angels.
- Scott Boras